SME Growth

The Role of Stock Exchanges in Fostering Economic Growth and Sustainable Development

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), one of the organizers of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, published a report examining the role of stock exchanges in promoting economic growth and sustainable development. The publication was developed with the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), which represents more than 200 market infrastructure providers including exchanges and CCPs.

The report, entitled The Role of Stock Exchanges in Fostering Economic Growth and Sustainable Development, was officially launched at the opening session of the 57th WFE Annual Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The report explains how stock exchanges operate, and why they matter; longer-term developmental challenges; and finally, how exchanges might be able to address some of those challenges.

Key findings of the report:

The report identifies two primary mechanisms through which stock exchanges can contribute to development:

  • Mobilising resources, both domestic and foreign portfolio flows, for sustainable economic growth and development. In addition to the core financing function of exchanges, the report also looks at what exchanges are doing to improve SME access to finance through dedicated markets, and to marshal funds to address sustainability challenges.

  • Promoting good governance in business practices, through the promotion of greater disclosure from their listed companies, including Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) disclosure.

The ability of exchanges to perform these roles is dependent, however, on the existence of an enabling environment, comprising relevant policy, processes and institutional structures. The report has therefore developed a framework for stock exchanges and stakeholders that can be used as a preliminary guideline.

The UNCTAD/WFE report also highlights the importance of SMEs in economic development and provides an overview of the current SME platform universe at stock exchanges.

The SSE highlighted in its 2016 Report on Progress examples of stock exchanges contributing to decent work and economic growth, and highlighted this as one of the five Sustainable Development Goals that stock exchanges can contribute to advancing:

  • Goal 5: Gender Equality
  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns
  • Goal 13: Climate Change
  • Goal 17: Global Partnerships

In the third chapter of the joint report, a review of all efforts by stock exchanges to promote sustainable development shows various initiatives and tools being adopted to promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure. This includes the progress of the SSE’s campaign to close the ESG guidance gap which doubled the number of stock exchanges offering guidance on ESG disclosure, and aims to have all exchanges providing guidance on this topic.

Download the report here.

Technical Assistance

The SSE works with stock exchanges to develop or grow sustainable SME platforms through donor-sponsored technical assistance. For more information, please contact the SSE team directly via email: info(AT)